U.S. Approves Possible Sale of 34 Lockheed F-35s to Belgium; Japan Deploying First F-35 to Misawa; India Allegedly Enters Conversation.

Based on latest news, it may have been a good weekend for the F-35.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement late Friday confirming it has approved the possible sale of 34 Lockheed F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters to Belgium. The authorization permitting the sale of advanced defense technology is a key step toward completing the actual purchase, quoted to be worth up to “$6.53 billion USD”. The proposed contract with Lockheed Martin, builder of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, would include 38 new Pratt & Whitney advanced F-135 jet engines that power the F-35.

Based on reports Belgium would potentially buy the F-35A variant of the Lightning II, the same variant used by the U.S. Air Force. One of the selling points of buying into the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is cross-force interoperability. Belgium potentially operating the same variant as the USAF, Dutch and Italians may have been one factor that helped propel the potential deal for Belgium.

Still, the F-35A is still not the replacement for the Belgian Air Force F-16s: the 5th generation aircraft will face competition from the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon in the response to a Request for Governmental Proposal (RfGP) issued by Bruxelles last year.

The decision from Belgium is expected by mid-2018.

Belgium received U.S. authorization for the purchase of the “A” version of the F-35 shown here at Nellis AFB as operated by the USAF. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist)

 

Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force also announced this week it will begin its first-ever deployment of a Japanese ASDF F-35A Lightning II at Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture, northeastern Japan later this month. The single aircraft to be stationed and operated from Misawa is the first of 42 Lockheed F-35A Lighting IIs to be delivered to Japan as their primary multi-role combat aircraft. The JASDF will deploy an additional 9 aircraft operationally to Misawa by the end of 2018 bringing the total Japanese operational F-35A force to 10 aircraft by year’s end.

A key weapon system on the JASDF F-35As will be the advanced, long-range Norwegian-built Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace Gruppen Joint Strike Missile (JSM). The JSM is a variant of the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile and is carried in the interior weapons bay of the F-35A, maintaining its low observable characteristics. The Kongsberg JSM can strike targets up to 500 kilometers away from its launch point, enabling Japan to strike many potential adversaries without leaving its own airspace, a key concern since Japan’s air force is labeled as a “self-defense force” and constrained from operations outside Japan’s legally defined defense air space in most instances.

Japan’s first F-35 will become operational this month according to Japanese media. (Photo: NHK Japan)

Finally, a story that appeared in India’s Economic Times said that, “American aerospace and defense major Lockheed Martin has proposed to manufacture custom-built F-35 fighter jets in India, which its officials say will give Indian industry a unique opportunity to become part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem.”

The story, that appeared in Indian media on Jan. 20, 2018, did not specify what “custom built” F-35s meant, but may hint at a down-spec version of the F-35 airframe with different avionics and sensors than some other export manufactured versions of the F-35 to maintain security interests.  The same article discussed the use of the AN/APG-83 radar system, different from the AN/APG-81 on the U.S. and other partner nation F-35s.

There is no additional verification of any Indian F-35 manufacturing program in other media outlets. Oddly, another Indian media outlet, the Free Press Journal of India, published a similar story on the same day claiming the U.S. planned to build F-16s (not F-35s) in India. The Free Press Journal of India story read, “American aerospace and defense major Lockheed Martin has proposed to manufacture custom-built F-16 fighter jets (ed’s note: not F-35s as quoted in the India Economic Times article) in India, which its officials say will give Indian industry a unique opportunity to become part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem.”

Confusing press coming out of India aside, Lockheed Martin and all of the F-35 subcontractors have to be pleased to start out the new year with a host of encouraging stories about the F-35 program.

Update Jan. 22, 19.30 GMT:

We were notified that the original version of a Press Trust of India article posted late last week, has since been corrected to remove the erroneous “F-35” reference in the first sentence of the article—see corrected article here: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/lockheed-martin-proposes-custom-built-fighter-jets-to-be-made-in-india-1802538. The first sentence of PTI’s article now reads:

“American aerospace and defence firm Lockheed Martin has proposed to manufacture custom-built F-16 fighter jets in India, which its officials say will give the Indian industry a unique opportunity to become part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem.”

 

About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.

9 Comments

  1. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/385ad8e689cc2cd3b078e09379d4ef4eebfb222d498be6d35913c238352d888e.jpg I cannot admit lies as a matter of principle. I know most of the flaws of the 21 and none of them is any of the ones you guys make on the fly just to “win” a discussion. I pointed to the F-22 PIO crash as a proof that it is a pilot error in any dinamically stable aircraft, and not an inherent flaw of any usual design.

    About the F-104 it does not matter what do you think or not. The expression “widow maker” was coined for it due to the history registered Fact that the Luftwaffe lost hundreds, yes hundreds of 104s during its career. Italians had a better experience with it. The retired Indian Air Force Chief, an ex-21 Pilot, who loves it, wrote that most accident were attributable to human errors. The cause being that most fresh fighter pilots go to the 21 directly from school and the 21 requires stick and rudder attention like all delta wing aircraft. Experienced pilots go to the more complex machines.

    The number of 21s shot varies depending from whose media is reporting them and the veracity of the sources. No side is 100% reliable. Specially the pilots that have a lot to win from the celebrity treatment and Air Forces that want to be feared.

    Watch the 2017 videos I posted for Ilya Kurenkov, those are 21s operated by a NATO country. Other NATO nation’s fly 21s side by side with your F-22s. Do they look like rotting in the Sun?

    Be honest, do you really think you know the 21 better than the dozens and dozens of air forces still operating it?

    Don’t you think that it is symptomatic of something good, the fact that all the 21 contemporaries and subsequent opponents are gone and lost (104, EE Lightning, Mirage III series, Phantom, Crusader, F-101, F-102, F-105, F-106, F-111, Kfir, MiG-23, Su-9, Su-11, Su-15, Yak-25, etc. etc.) while thousands of 21s are rotting in the Sun?

    BTW, one of the saddest sights I’be ever seen was looking at thousands of some of those magnificent airplanes, and others, being slaughtered at Davis-Monthan and kept in life support across the street at the Pima Air Museum. A never-again experience! It spoiled my day in Tucson! If you love aircraft, visit Pima; but don’t look at D-M.

    I think this photo of another NATO MiG-21 shows they bask in the Sun instead of rotting as they should: :)

    • https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1d4f49c1c8551c803416e654c9cb7f97ec70b0e2c2ad1fc11733daaadf4c6e6e.jpg

      Yeah, I have a feeling you really are not able to understand the main arguments. How can you forget the dozens and dozens of planes abandoned in old communist fields?

      You also seem to not understand PIO, or even why it was one of the biggest safety issues on a mig-21.

      I’m not so sure I want to even bother in trying to explain it to you…again.

      • Almost 15 000 MiG-21s were built in 60 years. They are long living, but not eternal. Over 4000 are still in service. Most of the ones built in China are almost new. Those you see “rotting in the Sun” are actually corpses in their mini Davis-Monthans. As for the ex-communist countries, operating Soviet built versions (stopped in 1985), they must have logical spare parts issues. Bulgaria retired them last year after 52 years of service; Romania upgraded and showcases them as you can see in the videos. Probably theirs are the best 21s ever. Israel offers (still?) super-upgrades. Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia and Cuba are still flying them. And I was wrong, it’s “only” 20 countries still operating 21s, not dozens and dozens as l mistakenly wrote.

        It is telling, that after being “proven” inferior and defeated by Western fighters, Vietnam and Egypt still rely on the 21. They must know something, don’t you think? But, of course, you know more than them.

        I never flew 21s, but I’ve spoken with many, many of its pilots from many different countries. Problems: you provoke too much yaw and the air intake may stall causing compressor problems. Also, you have to fly it properly during landing, it is no glider. No inherent instabilities whatsoever.

        And, mr. know-it-all, Pilot Induced Oscillations (PIOs) are oscillations induced by a pilot, not by an airplane. No matter what your english Wiki MiG-21 entry may say.

        BTW, check how often the Wikipedia English page is being “revised” since we started commenting on the MiG-21. Sad and very depressing! Generalized Pervasive Manipulation. That’s the new Reality. Fake is the new True! Soon all relevant History will have been Revised. After a few more years of this, our children and the whole Humanity, may never know the Past (nor the Present). Sounds like an Orwellian dystopia; but it is already happening.

        I write here as a try to preserve honest truth for this forum’s audience; not to feed your trolls. I am not that stupid.

        • //It is telling, that after being “proven” inferior and defeated by Western fighters, Vietnam and Egypt still rely on the 21.//

          They are cheap, and with some upgrade they can provide a marginal help until more modern fighters come. But they were built cheapily, and the amount of MiG-21s being shot down or crashed shows it. It is the old Russian mantra, quantity over quality. Also, they were built for 26 years, and 48 if you count the J-7. They were so crap, that Russians only made them for 26 years, and they were still inferior to the F-4 Phantom. Meanwhile the F-15 and F-16, which are premiere fighter planes, are still in production,and still racking up orders! That means, F-15 with 42 years and the F-16 with 40.

          Whilst the Phantom was made for only 23 years, its replacement already started in the 70’s. But Russia didn’t have any other comparable plane. The only one that was able to finally replace the Mig-21 was the Su-27, and that was only after 1985!

          //And, mr. know-it-all, Pilot Induced Oscillations (PIOs) are oscillations induced by a pilot, not by an airplane. No matter what your english Wiki MiG-21 entry may say.//

          Because the pilot tries to over-correct a bad aircraft behavior. Thus, causing the PIO.

          //BTW, check how often the Wikipedia English page is being “revised” since we started commenting on the MiG-21. Sad and very depressing! Generalized Pervasive Manipulation.//

          Mostly with small grammar corrections. So I fail to see your point. In fact, they still use a Kremlin friendly source. Which makes various claims against the F-4. Like saying that South America had, or has any F-4s.

          //That’s the new Reality. Fake is the new True! Soon all relevant History will have been Revised. After a few more years of this, our children and the whole Humanity, may never know the Past (nor the Present). Sounds like an Orwellian dystopia; but it is already happening.//

          I wish you weren’t part of the problem of fake news, and you didn’t rewrite history to fit your political narrative. But sadly, you are… So, those words are just empty jibber jabber. Especially because you DENY the Soviet union involvement with nazism and genocide.

          • // They are cheap, and with some upgrade they can provide a marginal help until more modern fighters come.//

            Not expensive, like the Kalashnikov.
            Vietnam is flying them alongside with Sukhois and Egypt with F-16s, Raphales, Mirages 2000s, MiG-35(?) and at one point with Phantoms. So, they don’t need “marginal help”. Nor does Pakistan with its F-16s.

            Can it be that they just love it?

            That you viscerally and blindly hate anything and everything Soviet/Russian does not make their aircraft junk as you would have it.

            //They were so crap, that Russians only made them for 26 years, and they were still inferior to the F-4 Phantom.//

            The Soviet Union had to keep introducing new capabilities to counter its opponents new advances. But production continued in Czechoslovakia, India and China. The latter is still producing (and selling) one variant and a couple of derivatives.
            Maybe China needs”marginal help” for its operational stealths.

            They were still inferior to the Phantom only in your phantasmagoric distortions of history. The only advantages of the Phantom were its faster acceleration (two bigger engines) and two crewmen.

            Otherwise, the F-4 was no match for the 21. Phantoms are long gone (except for Iran and Greece?) and the 21 is the second most numerous fighter in service in the world, after the F-16.
            Actually, according to your own sources, there were 16 Vietnamese aces and two American ace crews ( the pilot and the WSO/RIO each were credited for the same victory (or “kill” as your mentality will prefer).
            Since one of these aces is a convicted scoundrel (Cunningham, the most corrupt US Congressman in history) his account of downing the MiG-17 of a mythical N.Vietnamese double ace, a Colonel Tomb, using his superior smarts, should make YOU think.
            To help you, American sources found:
            – no NV pilot reached a rank above major.
            – the name/word Tomb is not and has never been part of the Vietnamese language.
            To his credit, it should be noted that Cunning-ham did not create the myth of Tomb.

            Interesting that Phantoms needed two highly qualified guys to defeat one third world pilot, flying second generation MiG-17s!

            The NV MiGs were so effective against everything was thrown at them that the Navy scrambled to create Top Gun and the USAF sent its Phantom crews to its Weapons School.

            For the usual deniers of your team, here is what even your Wikipedia english entry admits:

            “The origin of Red Flag was the unacceptable performance of U.S. Air Force fighter pilots and weapon systems officers (WSO) in air combat maneuvering (ACM) (air-to-air combat) during the Vietnam War….”

            Of course we all know it is Russian propaganda.

            We also know that the USAF got one 21 for evaluation. It baffles me that they drew advice for fighter pilots, based on the evaluation of the oldest version of the plane, the MiG-21F-13 which was completely outclassed by the 21PFs used by NV. Oh well. Better than nothing!

            What should piss every Ordinary American, is that their military’s arrogance led too many good young crews into fatal overconfidence.
            And rewriting history only leads to repeating it.

            //Mostly with small grammar corrections. So I fail to see your point. In fact, they still use a Kremlin friendly source. Which makes various claims against the F-4. Like saying that South America had, or has any F-4s.//

            The daily revisions in Wikipedia are substantial editions of text to accommodate the needs of the narrative in the wider media. Wikipedia allows you to save pages as PDF books. I’ve done it and the changes are scary. Poor those who only can read English!

            I also read the Russian entries. There is garbage there too; but in a smaller, amateurish scale, since they aim at a more limited readership and have less money. And you don’t feel any hatred.

            //I wish you weren’t part of the problem of fake news, and you didn’t rewrite history to fit your political narrative. But sadly, you are… So, those words are just empty jibber jabber. Especially because you DENY the Soviet union involvement with nazism and genocide.//

            Since I only respond to postings with errors, lies, distortions and venom, I don’t write news.
            As a matter of principle, I only state facts with verifiable sources. I used to give references, but none of your group was interested. So I stopped. Your job is to make categoric statements without any real base and hope to brainwash the naive audience. You never give a proper answer to any proper question. And usually distract the discussion toward absurd issues. Like the Soviet Union.

            BTW, I don’t deny anything. Historical archives have the facts and I read them. That’s all.

            I never read anything about Soviet genocide, so I cannot deny it. I know of Soviet crimes, mainly (but not only) against the Russian people, but not for ethnic reasons, but because of Stalin’s paranoia. Nobody who respects true History would deny Soviet crimes.

            And the only historical involvement with nazi Germany was the signing of a non-aggression pact similar to the ones signed earlier with Germany by Poland and Great Britain. Of course, there were trade, cultural or technical, agreements with nazi Germany, but everybody had them, especially the US. As a curiosity, the US never declared war against Germany, it was Hitler who declared war on the US.
            Nothing malignant with that. The US was simply neutral at the time.

            If I were you, I’d use the word genocide very carefully. Technically, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the carpet incendiary bombing of Tokyo for days, and the British carpet bombing of Dresden and Hamburg were obvious genocides. No matter what excuses.

            Thou shall not kill innocent, unarmed, civilian non-combatant children, women, elderly, disabled defenseless citizens. Even to save your own armed combatants.

            Most true Americans, your ordinary people, agree with that. I know that.

            Of course, you will DENY all of that. Please don’t argue with me, argue with the Archives.

            Why don’t you use your energy to help bring everybody together toward peace?

  2. I think their advantage was their high moral ground! They were defending their people, their mothers, sisters, children and lives with the same courage of David against a Goliath and a band of sold souls with the same blood. The genius of Giap was devising what they called “War of All the People”, where every citizen had a role and a task. And the system worked 24/7. For example, they had few fighters and even fewer runways that were frequently bombed. The fighters could not sleep in their bases without being destroyed. So, after the last mission of the day, every single fighter was airlifted by Mi-6 giant helicopters to far away refuges in the mountains. Pilots did not sleep in the bases, etc. No Goliath can defeat that type of attitude.

    It was not that they had no choice but fight; it was that they were determined to win. All of them.

    • They had a long experience of the fight. Even before French colonisation, they were fighting for independance from Siam. Then from France. THey had been fighting for 100 years when the US git involved.

      • True, but they were always David with no high tech gadgets. Always the underdog. Always an undeveloped country.

        Their experience was in using the people’s high moral ground and strength as their main weapon. Motivation and selfless courage made them invincible. France, the US and Chine did not lose the wars, the Vietnamese people won them!

        Motivation, in this case is, like Americans would put it, patriotism on steroids! But Patriotism can be activated only when you are fighting on your own soil. It cannot travel to foreign lands and people, no matter what the media tells you. When it tries, it becomes Revenge and loses its noble aura.

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